STOW — The fifth-generation wireless network, or 5G, might not be in Stow yet, but some city officials think it’s coming soon, and they want to be prepared when it gets there.
Stow City Council is considering legislation that would regulate how companies can construct equipment in the city’s right of way to support 5G.
"This is going to require a whole new infrastructure for these wireless providers to provide this kind of service,” said Stow Law Director Amber Zibritosky, who said she expects 5G to be in major cities in 2019 and 2020. “And it's something that our residents, our businesses in the future are going to want.”
Most wireless users currently use 4G LTE technology. Julianna Moyer, an intern with Stow’s planning department, said 5G offers more room for other devices and a faster network speed as more people use mobile devices and use more data.
“This is very much the next wave of technology that we're seeing,” Moyer said. “As the number of mobile devices increases, the networks are congested, and 5G just allows more room for other devices with a faster network speed.”
Moyer said the 5G signal is at a higher frequency than 4G LTE and doesn’t travel as far, so its range is between 10 meters and two kilometers, or 1.25 miles. 5G service is provided through small cell facilities placed in city right of ways.
Stow’s nine-page ordinance, titled “Chapter 939: Small Cell Technology in the Right of Way,” was based on Worthington’s ordinance and allows the city to regulate the design, construction and removal of the small cell facilities. Zibritosky said the ordinance helps wireless providers, too, because they know what to expect in Stow, with a set process and guidelines.
The ordinance creates a process for issuing small cell permits, including a $250 application fee and a $200 per year fee to collocate on existing city structures. It also sets safety requirements, installation and inspection guidelines and requirements for replacement, maintenance, repair and removal of abandoned facilities.
Stow Planning Director Rob Kurtz said the ordinance includes design guidelines to give the city some control over how the equipment would look and fit into the city.
"This is a benefit, potential benefit, to our residents, so we want to be able to manage these in an efficient way,” he said.
Most preferable would be placing the equipment on existing structures, such as streetlights, utility poles, electrical poles or traffic signals.
Preferred locations include industrial areas, highway right of ways, retail and commercial areas and arterial and collector streets, like Darrow or Graham roads. Least preferred locations include residential areas, parks and local streets.
The design guidelines also give the city the ability to control the maximum height of new poles, the mounting height for equipment, the maximum size of cabinets and setbacks from sidewalks and streets, along with setting requirements for finish and color or camouflaging structures.
The city could also control new pole construction, with limitations on how close poles can be.
Zibritosky said the city got its first small cell deployment application in 2016, but officials didn’t know anything about it. House Bill 478, which took effect in August, gives cities some rights to control how the equipment is placed in city right of ways.
The legislation received its first reading at the Dec. 13 council meeting.
Stow resident Mary Mumper told council she doesn’t want 5G in Stow, saying she’s concerned with its effect on human health.
“How safe is 5G?” she said. “We don't know exactly, specifically."
Third-ward representative Brian Lowdermilk also voiced health concerns, saying when he was in the military, people were “always very careful” around high-frequency radios.
"I assume there'll be some proof down the road that that's not gonna be a problem,” he added.
Mumper said she was also concerned with the security and aesthetics of small cell technology.
“I really don't want it out in my median strip,” she said. “I realize what the law director's saying that it's coming. I think it's terrible, and I think that we need to take a stand and become educated and say no.”
Zibritosky and Lowdermilk encouraged Mumper to contact her state and federal representatives, as Stow isn’t deciding if it will allow 5G — a decision Zibritosky said the city can't legally make — but how it can control it once it’s here.
"What we're doing here is not necessarily approving or disapproving,” Lowdermilk said. “We're trying to put in place some things that will help limit and protect the residents of the city."
Zibritosky emphasized 5G is coming, regardless of whether Stow adopts the ordinance or not.
“Whether you enact this or not has no bearing on whether this is coming. This is coming. I mean, it is just a fact,” she told the council. “And if we don't enact this, then that just means that we have less ability to control it, but it's gonna come."
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.